Healthcare

Obamacare Provides an Uneven Exchange

Privately-owned companies bail out Obamacare

Did you think that the idea of the “exchanges,” the online access that was supposed to streamline insurance information, was a new concept with Obamacare (aka Affordable Care Act, ACA)? Well, it isn’t and it wasn’t. But the politicians, advisors and lobbyists who authored the ACA apparently thought it was. They touted it as one of the new efficiencies that would help bring down the cost of health care. As it turns out, a number of companies in the private sector were already operating effective health insurance marketplaces and had been doing so for years.

According to Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute, “The administration wanted it to be completely government-run, but what they learned as they went along is that they weren’t competent to do it.”

In desperation to meet the Oct.1, 2013 deadline, the federal government was forced to cast a wider net for solutions and help. They found and contracted with a half-dozen private companies who were already providing online comparative rate quotes for health care insurance. The database driving it was already in place, providing multiple levels of insurance policy quotes based on user criteria. All the third-party companies had to do was 1.) add a layer that accesses the federal data hub to determine discount eligibility and 2.) ramp up capacity. As of the writing of this article, third-party companies say they are ready.

The price and range of choices are identical to the federal exchange because the data comes from the same insurance companies who offer coverage in any given geographic area. The obvious question is why did the government try to create something that already existed? Did we really need to spend untold millions on a separate federal exchange?

The lesson here is to understand that the mentality of those who pushed through the Obamacare bill prevented them from even considering the notion that the private sector could possibly provide better solutions than the government. They believe that the government knows what is best, and citizens are best served by relying on government control. To most of them, the private sector is messy and fraught with greedy business people.

In the larger picture, it is critical for business owners and individuals alike to keep up with what is going on with the Affordable Care Act. Frequently, new mandates or taxes are discovered buried in the fine print, and presidential directives arbitrarily give exemptions to certain groups and deferral to others. Unfortunately, prior experience indicates that we, the public, cannot trust the spin coming out HHS (Health and Human Services) or nearly anything our president is saying on this subject.

To balance the media sound bites, I am sharing some of my trusted sources for health care information, opinion, research and data:

  • The Apothecary (www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary) – a daily blog edited by Avik Roy, A Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and Forbes contributor.
  • National Center for Policy Analysis (www.ncpa.org/healthcare) develops and promotes private alternatives to government regulation and control. Check out their Daily Digest and the article “Repeal and Replace: 10 Necessary Changes.”
  • National Federation of Independent Business (www.nfib.com/advocacy/healthcare) is unique in that they advocate solely for small business interests. These folks were the lead attorneys when the ACA constitutional challenge went to the Supreme Court. Check out their Healthcare Playbook.
  • Contributor Merrill Matthews at Forbes (www.forbes.com/sites/merrillmatthews) has a weekly blog; don’t miss the archives for articles “Health Savings Accounts Will Survive Obamacare – at Least For Now” and “Shocker: New Survey Finds Nearly Every Federal Employee Rejects Obamacare.”

 Two examples of the third-party, private-sector companies mentioned in this article are www.gohealthinsurance.com and www.ehealth.com. Both were contracted to enroll only people residing in the 36 states that opted out of setting up separate state exchanges, of which Kansas and Missouri are a part. On these sites, many healthcare plans are offered in addition to the “qualified plans” that are mandatory, though only the qualified plans are eligible for subsidy. Nate Purpura, Director of Public Relations for eHealth points out that “to establish subsidy eligibility, everybody — our site and all the state sites included — must connect back to the federal data hub,” so if the federal data hub isn’t running properly, eligibility cannot be verified and subsidies grind to a halt. Or, as Obama’s administration had suggested earlier, just leave out the subsidy eligibility verification entirely.

Column by Nancy Zurbuchen

Nancy Zurbuchen is co-founder and executive director, Kansas City Council of Women Business Owners and a gubernatorial appointee to the Missouri Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board. Opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the writer and are not endorsed by Anthem Publishing or any of its subsidiaries. To respond to this column, send comments to maibox@thisiskc.com.